So this morning it was anounced at St Marys that I am to be made an honorary lay canon of St Albans Cathedral! To be honest although I have known about it for two weeks I still cannot quite believe it.
Many will probably have the same response as I had: "So what's that about?!" Its not really a well known way of honouring someone, is it?! And even for those of us who are Anglicans its rare enough that most of us are pretty ignorant. I was - and on receiving the letter from Bishop Alan of St Albans had to check out the facts! In simple terms, in the Church of England every Cathedral is led by a Dean and four or five Residentiary Canons, senior clergy who together they make up the governing body, the Chapter, of the Cathedral. In addition to them, a number of senior clergy from around the church in the area (the diocese) are installed as honorary canons. And a few lay people are made honorary lay canons ; many are people who have a senior post at the cathedral or in the diocese. ("What is an Anglican “Canon”? It sounds like some kind of gun!" is the best piece I can find!)
I will be installed on May 3rd at St Albans Cathedral and Abbey Church at the 4.00pm evensong service. It really is literally an installation, as I will be given my own stall in the Choir of the Cathedral alongside other members of the College of Canons.
The stalls are the back rows of seat, and each carries name of some saint or important person. (from a flickr set: "St Albans Cathedral, Hertfordshire" by Rex Harris. (c) All Rights Reserved)
That's the technicalities covered! I'm actually not sure myself of a lot more detail! Much more important though is what this honour says. It is a "yes!" to the work I have been doing this past few years. More importantly still, its a massive "Yes?" to the Church's commitment to oppose hatred and division in our society, especially in this case against Muslims. Its a "Yes!" to the church's place as an agent of peace and reconciliation in our world. And its a very big "Yes!" to Luton with all its colour and diversity. And I'm thrilled to accept it for those reasons!
I'm deeply grateful for the opportunity to represent all that Luton is; all that my friends of all faiths and cultures and backgrounds are; and Christians in Luton living out their faith in the midst of it all. The honour is a recognition that when I act and speak I do so on their behalf as well as my own, and the church is giving its authority to my voice.
The honour is great. Like all these things Debretts tells how I can be addressed in different circumstances. But I'll follow the example of Tony Benn who we have remembered this week, and prefer to remain Peter or Pete!